open access logo by lincoln stoller
I am seriously considering ceasing to submit my work to closed journals.
Submissions to closed journal are either accepted by an editor who knows your work, or submitted to volunteers advertized as peers who decide whether it's ready for publication based on familiarity with you, or your point of view. Familiarity assures acceptance, unfamiliarity scrutiny by peers of the readership who, in my experience, have limited expertise.
Different closed journals compete for readers from the same group of similarly trained professionals. Since these journals don't share rights to their publications with other journals the only way to reach a larger audience in your field is by having your work endorsed, referenced, and discussed by those authorities in the field who set the research agenda. This puts the whole research endeavor back under institutional purview.
The result of this system is that new ideas are not widely discussed. There is a "Tower of Babel" effect where people in different specialties of the same field rarely converse, and those in different fields never speak to each other in spite of their shared language. This leads to an opaque institutional control disconnected from and unresponsive to the larger, potentially integrated environment.
I have seen similar differences in other fields in which I've worked. The "hard" sciences share similar standards, tools and language so that even though astronomers don't seek mathematical proofs and mathematicians pay no attention to observational evidence the two groups can collaborate. In contrast psychology, medicine, divinity, economics, and history have different standards of argument, demonstration, and discussion. What passes for a definitive argument in economics, or an objective conclusion in medicine, or a substantive conclusion in history are incommensurate. These fields have such little contact that they can espouse views that predominated hundreds of years apart, and still experience no conflict. There is not one Ivory Tower, there are many: a separate one for each specialty, and they are disconnected.
I put part of the blame for this on the dissemination of information within groups of people who do not interact, and through the closed journals that these groups naturally prefer. For this reason it is both important and revolutionary that journals are now becoming "open."
Open journals have arrived with the internet. They are driven by the cost-free creation and distribution of content, and the fine-grained cross-indexing that the internet makes possible. Traditional closed journals are trying to migrate to the web but persist in offering content at prices that are affordable only to private institutions. Open journals, being free to everyone, blow this model to pieces.
I don't yet know the full open journal terrain. I know there are some open journals that focus on specific fields, and others that publish articles in a large number of fields. Some review submissions before publications, others do not. For instance PhysNet (http://de.physnet.net/PhysNet/journals.html) lists about 70 open access journals that focus specifically on physics and related topics worldwide.
The Directory of Open Access Journals (http://www.doaj.org) lists over 8,000 free access journals world wide, organized by language and specialty. InTech (http://www.intechweb.org/journals.html) describes its mission to "break down the traditional barriers to becoming published and provide authors with new choices and an equal opportunity to share their ideas and the results of their research with the global scientific community."
http://www.researchgate.net presents a kind of hybrid effort: they index and collate articles of interest to users but do not limit themselves to open journals. As a member, this site will present to me all recent articles that match my criteria of interest, but some (many?) of these will be unavailable to me in their full form. That's not bad given that one does want to know what's being done even if you can't get at it.
Current Self-Reported Symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Are Associated with Total Brain Volume in Healthy Adults,
Dopamine Modulates Metabolic Rate and Temperature Sensitivity in Drosophila melanogaster,
Towards the "Baby Connectome": Mapping the Structural Connectivity of the Newborn Brain,